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Cinema Jenin – A story of a Dream (English)

Cinema Jenin – A story of a Dream (English)


Directors Cut in Dolby 5.1 und 2K/DCP

In order to offer children and young people in Jenin hope and a perspective, hundreds of volunteers from all over the world, together with Ismael Khatib from 'The Heart of Jenin', are renovating an old cinema in Jenin that was closed during the first Intifada. CINEMA JENIN was opened in the summer of 2011 and operated as a movie theater for 5 years before it was demolished in December 2016 and replaced by a shopping mall.

Original languages : English, ArabicSubtitles : English, German, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, Arabic, Hebro, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Bulgarian, Danish, Estonian, Finnish, Greek, Indonesian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Dutch, Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Swedish, Slovakian, Slovenian, Czech, Turkish, Ukrainian, HungarianLength : 96 minutesRelease : 2024


Dedicated to Juliano Mer-Khamis

Juliano Mer-Khamis was the impassioned director of the Freedom Theatre in Jenin. His secret love was the cinema, and he advocated and supported the rebuilding of Cinema Jenin from the very beginning. Two days before Marcus Vetter was to discuss a possible cooperation between Cinema Jenin and the Freedom Theatre Juliano was brutally shot to death. The death of Juliano Mer-Khamis is a great loss for everyone who lives and breathes freedom in theater and film.

Cinema Jenin follows an ambitious initiative to re-open a previously abandoned cinema in the West Bank city of Jenin. Founded in the 1960s, it was once the largest cinema in Palestine, today it stands as a hollow echo of its society. Re-building the cinema, Germans and Palestinians come together evoking often comedic but always political and cultural ramifacations. Cinema Jenin witnessed an intimate, nuanced and textured view into the city and its domestic affairs as well as the journey of a dedicated, loyal, often conflicted group of people who hope that the re-building of the cinema will be a bridge to peace, freedom and Palestinian self-empowerment. The film CINEMA JENIN tells this story from the very first moment. It becomes a drawn-out process, as the German director at the center of his own story encounters complex cultural relationships and sentiments. Initially, he doesn’t understand many Palestinian customs and he gets taken to task for it on several occasions. What’s more, the involvement of foreign parties is a delicate issue for many Palestinians – especially when it comes to Israel. Although the new cinema is supposed to welcome everyone, the enterprise prompts reactions that reveal the painful nature of the relationship between Palestine and Israel. The word “peace” becomes extremely charged, and the initiators Ismael, Fakhri and Marcus have to take care that the social project doesn’t turn into a political one. These and other problems need to be solved with the help of a few big names, lots of volunteers, and even more cigarettes.

“I am deeply committed to Cinema Jenin.”

Roger Waters, founder of Pink Floyd

“CINEMA JENIN is a story about courage in hopelessness. But it’s much more about the power of hope and a common goal.”

Rating “EXCEPTIONALLY VALUABLE” and “DOCUMENTARY FILM OF MAY 2012” by German Film and Media Rating (FBW)


Three films tell stories of freedom and peace

The three films “Heart of Jenin”, “Cinema Jenin” and “After the Silence” wonderfully tell the complex history of Palestine using the example of the city of Jenin. There are three films of hope, but also of despair. But above all, these stories show that it is worth dreaming.

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“As a documentary filmmaker I go to a foreign land, and the people tell their stories and open their hearts. In return, I give them back a film, but I don’t believe that a film alone has the power to change their circumstances in the long run. Rebuilding Cinema Jenin gives each of those who participate the possibility to write the next chapter in their lives.”

Marcus Vetter about the project Cinema Jenin

Director´s Statement

by Alex Bakri and Marcus Vetter

When you come to Jenin, you immediately notice the colors. Lush green fields and earth brown landscapes harmonize with the even more colorful colors on the market place of the city. In this market, red martyr-glorifying posters on the walls of the shops and their yellow entrances. Green cars, blue, purple, red, brown, even pink – everything flows into each other on the main streets of the city. A kaleidoscopic choreography, like I have never seen in any other city before. My first visit was to the city’s refugee camp, a far less colorful place a few years ago. The Israeli army cleaned it up, leaving almost nothing but rubble. The damage is still being repaired, but it will be repaired in monochrome type: a white-grey color marks those houses which were devastated at that time. I was here for the first time in 2007 as a translator for the documentary film “The Heart of Jenin”. The film told the story of 11-year-old Ahmed Khatib, who was killed by Israeli soldiers. His father Ismail decided the same day that his son’s organs were to be donated to Israeli children should be donated – a gesture of peace. Ahmed’s organs save five lives. While working on this film, director Marcus Vetter and I often discussed the relationship between reality and Cinema. More precisely, about the different truths of a documentary and a feature film. At that time the “job” of every filmmaker was to seek and uncover the truth, wherever it lies hidden. And I was of the opinion that this should be done without any intervention. This view should, however, be radically change.

A year later, Marcus and I met again, here in Jenin. This time we listened to Ismail’s story of a forgotten cinema that he dreamed of reopening one day. Like the rest of Jenin, Ismail longs for it, to resume his life and be able to life with his family in a normal environment. For us a compelling moment when we couldn’t help but offer our help to Ismael. His brave step towards peace had to be continued. And we thought, yes, he’s right, a cinema is just the thing for that! We filmed the project from the first moment. At the beginning we did not yet have a structured concept, what and how we would film it. We went with the camera on the trail of the characters, always on the lookout for a story to tell. It started with Marcus and Fakhri Hamad, a law graduate who never got the chance to practice law. He helped Ismael at the youth center. Marcus and Fakhri started out together to search for for possible sponsors for the renovation of the cinema. Neither of them had any experience and so they initially only managed a considerable number of business cards. These difficulties kept going for quite some time. The Palestinian and the German shared intimate moments, dark humor, expectations, joy, anger, frustration and exertion – everything that life has to offer.

The filming of these daily fragments of real life, made me realized later that I had already found what I was looking for. As the project progressed, more and more people came to help. The next turning point for me was the discovery of Hussein, a former projectionist of the old Cinema Jenin. When he first entered the room it was like in a movie. A broad, aging, clumsy man with a hoarse voice, growling and mumbling to himself, crosses the old projection room like Charlie Chaplin. For some reason, he’s wearing an old computer keyboard under the arm. Without many words, he walks single-mindedly by the camera and resumes his work which he has been had left it there decades earlier. In a few minutes he performed nothing else than magic. What more than 20 years has been only a public toilet for pigeons, was suddenly brightly lit up again. All persons present were speechless. Enraptured by Hussein’s person, from then on I focused on him by making his heroic struggle with the old projectors. Surprisingly, he always kept exactly to the frame of the picture, like a professional actor. Never a dull moment with Hussein. Almost everything what he did amazed me. Always bold, unexpected, touching and cinematic, Hussein kept everyone on their toes.

I needed just to pose, set up the picture and have a real to observe masters in action. After many hours of pictures with Marcus, Fakhri and Hussein, I came to the conclusion that I was not looking for I had to look for history. She’d be in front of my camera whether I wanted to or not. In every situation there is history. You just have to find it. The project Cinema Jenin could become one of many films about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a film about the occupation-related poverty in a so-called dangerous place. But that is not what we want. This film is about various unusual people, who regardless of their nationalities come together to create the only cinema in a city (and the entire region). More than literature, theatre, or any other form of art the cinema deals with the most banal and trivial moments of people. Those things that everyone can do with everyone everywhere has in common. A documentary film that reports from conflict areas easily runs the risk of slipping into clichés. But our film is intended treat his characters as individuals and not as representatives of a particular political statement. No labels, no slogans, just the incredible history of Cinema Jenin.

“This cinema project is like a legacy of my dead son Ahmed. With its history everything has begun and the cinema will be forever connected to it.”

Ismael Khateeb

Film press & Reviews

Review: Cinema Jenin – A story of a dream

Graffitwithpunctation, Apr 27, 2013

Cinema Jenin at TCFF 2012

TCFF, Aug 21, 2012

‘Cinema Jenin,’ a West Bank Tragedy


Cinema Jenin brings movies and revival to a scarred West Bank city

The Washington Post

West Bank culture boost as Cinema Jenin rolls out red carpet

The Guardian

Between Hope and Reality

Aqntara, Jul 4, 2012

German filmmaker renovates West Bank cinema


Spezial Bernhard Wicki Prize for Cinema Jenin

Hollywood Reporter

A creative space beyond the grind of occupation

Mail&Guardian ZA

Foreign Office supports opening of Cinema Jenin

Foreign Office Germany, Aug. 4, 2010

Renovated cinema to bring new life to Jenin


West Bank Movie Theatre comes back to life


A West Bank Ruin, Reborn as a Peace Beacon

New York Times